Worship services in the 225-seat wooden chapel on Washington Street often were nearly full, as Grace Church prospered. On St. Andrew's Day in 1864, Peter Henry Steenstra (a scholarly immigrant from Holland who had been a Baptist minister) was ordained as an Episcopal priest at Grace Church, immediately becoming our second rector. The "high church" v. "low church" controversy was raging. Bishop Eastburn, a "low church" person was horrified to observe flowers (seen as a symbol of idolatry) on the Holy Table at Grace! Thus, as they marched in, Eastburn and Steenstra kneeled at opposite ends of the table; while eyes were closed during the opening prayer, they hid the vases beneath the cloth covering of the table!
"Steenie" successfully led Grace for five years...resigning somewhat unexpectedly to become a founding professor at the Episcopal Theological School, then located in Harvard University. During Steenstra's tenure at Grace Church, the grandfather of Lynda Rollins and the great grandfather of John Halfrey (our two longest-attending families) began to attend Grace Church.
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated as the Civil War ended; New York City created the first salaried fire department; and "Where Has My Litttle Dog Gone" was published. The Vestry felt we had outgrown our church building, and Grace needed leadership: would anyone want to serve as our third rector? Learn of that struggle in the next "History Minute".
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